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Friday, July 19, 2024

At least 10 Fano factions in armed resistance in Amhara, new report

A report by the UK-funded Peace Research Facility (PRF) indicates that at least 10 Fano factions are engaged in armed resistance against the Ethiopian government in the Amhara region.

According to the report, the term Fano originally referred to mercenaries who offered service to regional rulers but its meaning went through a transformation when leftist university students adopted the term to refer to their struggle against Haile Selassie in the 1960s.

More recently, the Amhara youth who challenged the EPRDF government along side other protest movements in the country were widely known as Fano, had played a role in bringing about the change that brought the current administration to power.

The report locates the causes that led to the emergence of armed militancy in the Amhara region to a sense of neglect by Abiy Ahmed’s administration, identity-based attacks targeting Amharas in other Ethiopian regions, border tensions with neighbouring Sudan and as a direct of consequence of the Tigray war where Fano forces, aided and funded by the federal government, were actively involved.

According to the report, there are at least 10 armed Fano Factions operating in the Amhara region right now. These include The Amhara Fano Unity in Gondar (AFUiG), The Fano for Existence, Justice, and Democracy Movement (FEJDM), The Amhara Fano Unity Council (AFUC), The Amhara Popular Front (APFR), Amhara Popular Force (APF), One Amhara Fano in Shoa (OAFiS), Amhara Fano Free People Movement (AFFPM), East Amhara Fano (EAF) and Bete Amhara Fano (BAF), among other numerous groups centralised under powerful individuals.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed meeting with representatives from all zones of the Amhara region in his office. Source: Office of the Prime Minister.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed meeting with representatives from all zones of the Amhara region in his office. Source: Office of the Prime Minister.

Many attribute this division to the fact that there is no such thing as an ‘Amhara’ identity, and hence it’s far more immediate for people to organise along the regional lines, such as Shewa, Gonder, Gojjam, and Wollo. According to the report, this sentiment is equally strong in the diaspora and animates forms of social organising.

Furthermore, since ‘Amhara’ historically denotes individuals who practice Orthodox Christianity, the communications and actions of the militia operating in the Amhara region extensively employ Orthodox Christian symbolism. While this has galvanised support for Fano among Orthodox Christians in the region, it has also “triggered concerns amongst the region’s Muslim communities, particularly in southern Wollo,” according to the report.

The report highlights that while there might be some Eritrean support to Fano factions in funding, provision of weapons and other equipment, or training, “it is unclear and difficult to determine the extent of the relationship.”

In light of the federal government’s position that it can contain the Fano factions through its army, and the impossibility of the Fano factions forming a united front, the crisis in the Amhara region will continue for the forceable future, the report concludes.

You can read the full report here.